If you have received court papers, you should not ignore them. Failing to respond within the allotted time will result in a default judgment.
Always answer the summons within the time required. When you are served with a law suit, the papers will tell you what the time period is in order to respond. Without this response, the party that brought the suit can apply for a default judgment against you and will also pile on attorney fees and costs.
If you have any doubt how to answer the legal papers, here are some options:
(1) Go to the court clerk's office and ask for help. Court clerks may not give legal advice and so you should not rely on the clerk’s office to tell you what to say in response to the legal allegation, or how to defend yourself. However, they may be able to assist in providing various forms or explaining the time deadlines.
(2) Retain an attorney. This is the best option because an attorney understands the meaning of the language in the complaint and understands what valid defenses you have.
(3) If you can not afford an attorney, call the state or county bar association and ask for a low fee or no fee referral.
Beyond answering the legal papers, civil court rules also allow you to send discovery to the people who have sued you, requiring them to answer questions and to provide documents. This can only be done if you answer in a timely fashion, and should really only be done by an attorney.
I truly wish you the best.
This answer is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided in an office consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, with experience in the area of law in which your concern lies.
The short answer from the Florida attorney above is correct. If you are not going to permit a default judgment against you, you need to "Answer" the "Complaint" within 20-25 days of receipt of the summons and complaint. The "Answer" is by no means whatsoever an explanation of why you have not been paying. It is a formal response to a formal claim made by the Complaint. If you want to answer you should prepare a sheet of paper with the headings the same as on the complaint and summons -- What is called "the style" of the case. You title the document "Answer" and you all you have to say in it is: "The defendant denies each and every allegation in the plaintiff's complaint and demands strict proof thereof." Period. It doesn't even have to be typed. If you have any defenses like the debt is over 5 years old and outside the statute of limitations, or you don't owe the money, put that in under the above denial. Then date it, put down your name and address, sign it. Put in a statement that you have mailed a copy of it to the attorney for the plaintiff stating his/her address and the date of mailing it. Mail the original to the clerk of the court, a copy to the plaintiff attorney, and keep a copy for yourself.
By doing this you will avoid a default and get to present a case in court. You will get a court date. You will get an oportunity to bargain the debt. To work out a payment plan. To take the case to mediation. If it goes to trial the Plaintiff will have to prove the debt is owed, that you owe it, and the amount which is owed. Also, if you do not demand discovery of evidence from the plaintiff, in Florida the Plaintiff cannot demand discovery from you.
The downside of all this is that your cc contract states that if the company sues you and wins a judgment, they get to add to the judgment "reasonable" attorney's fees and costs. The judge determines what is "reasonable" not the plaintiff but certainly if you bring the case to trial the attorney's fees will be much higher than if you default. On the otherhand, if you default the Plaintiff gets a judgment for whatever they claim and you don't get to mediate it.
If it were me I would "answer" and get the matter to mediation and then try to work out a payment plan that I could afford. If there is no payment plan I could afford, then I would be consulting a bankruptcy attorney.
PS. The plaintiff does not have to accept any mediated payment plan but it will be required to mediate.
The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. To indicate that you have read the answer it would be appreciated if you would check either the thumbs up or thumbs down box below. More than one attorney may respond to your question over the next 5 days so it may be beneficial for you to keep checking for answers